Friday, 7 December 2012

Growing chillies: Germinating chilli seeds.

To have chilli seeds to germinate, is one difficult business. It is an art really. So hold on your socks, and get ready! There are many many ways to do that, and I will walk you through a couple. You can germinate them on wet tissue paper, in ziplock bags. I do that to check the germination rate, it works wonders. Then again, if they germinate and you want to transplant them to soil, you are bound to damage a few. After checking the germination rate, I throw them away.
You can also germinate them in moist cotton wool, and transplant them top soil if they germinate, again a good few will be damaged. You can also germinate them in wet sand, but that at times seems to suffocate the seeds. You can also germinate them in diatomite, if you want to grow them hydro, but I don’t. And last but not least, you can germinate them in gel from pampers, works great as they give off water at a slow rate and it is sterile.

You can also seed them in soil, rather funny that people do a lot of different miraculous ways of seeding, while most seeds are made to germinate in soil. I am not sarcastic, but I know there are a load of good ways to keep you and me paying a load more, for not a lot more. Last time I looked at seeding soil, which actually is normal potting soil, only run through a sieve. Well, I can so that myself, without paying 5 to 8 times as much.
So what do you need is moist loose potting soil(compost), 100% humidity for the time until you see the first leaves, and a snug temperature from 24-26 Celsius. To do this you can use fancy propagators with heating, common propagators put over the heating or radiators, you can even use takeaway boxes. And that is what I do.

What you need:
Good potting soil, not super expensive stuff.
Worm compost if possible
Takeaway boxes with lids Some water
Good seeds
A warm spot
If in doubt over the seeds, some tea and some chamomile tea

If you want your seeds to be fast, or if you are in doubt about the seeds you can several things. You can soak them in germinating solution that will cost you good money, and doesn’t really do a lot. You can also soak them in weak tea, or rather a weak tea from 50 % tea and 50% chamomile tea (also spelled chamomile) If you do half and half chamomile tea, you got the advantage that the chamomile is anti septic. It will keep the seeds from getting mould. It will break down the hull or seed skin a bit, making it easier for the full seeds to pull out.
So, put them in a mug or a ziplock bag for 8-12 hours with the mixed tea.

Now for the takeaway boxes, they need to be ultra clean, I fill them with washing up water, and put them in the microwave for 30 seconds without the lid. The Lid I clean apart, and put some holes in it with a perforator. Then again I put them with a little water in it, with the lid on for 30 seconds in the microwave. This will make them sterile. A run in the dishwasher will do the same.

So, put about 25-30 mm moist soil in the takeway box, without chunks or hard bits. Put in the seeds, marked if you do multiple varieties. Put them under the ground as much as they are in size, so that they are covered with about 2-3 mm of soil. This will make it easier for the first leaves to totally get out of the seeds skin.
If you have it, worm compost or compost from a compost heap that has worms is a great thing to add. I have my own wormbins, and add 10% cleaned worm compost with the potting soil. Sometimes I add just one little worm. The worm and the life in the worm compost will eat mould if you get it. Seeds that rot will be eaten too. And that is a good thing, to get rid off before it affects the other seedlings.
Normally I cover the seeds with 2 mm of soil, not this time for the picture.

Put them at a warm and snug place, over the radiator or the central heating, or on a modem or computer. I use my computer for it all the time as it has the right temperature. Some people advice temperatures of 28-32, but that has a downside, moulds or bacteria will grow at a much faster rate. So 20 C will do, 23-26 much better, higher will have things speed up with a load as well as the risks for mould or fungus.

If they are up a bit they need light ! So a dark spot is not too good, however you can put a simple led spot over it, or a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) The colour if possible should be 6400-6500 K.

Now leave them alone, or sit and watch. Keep them moist only, not wet, and keep the lids on to keep the humidity at 100%. It will take 5-10 days for them all to be above the ground, and a couple of days to get rid of the hull or seed skin. There are a few exceptions; wild varieties can take up to 2 months. When they all have shed their seed skin, it is time to take the lid off and get them used to lower humidity levels. Ok, in about 14 days I will take you to the next step!

Yours sincerely,

Bart J. Meijer


  1. Very interesting post with lots of good tips.

    Thanks Bart.

    PS - I've been using the Takeaway tray & toilet paper method for a few years and get good germination results. I also don't get many problems with damage when moving them to a pot & soil. But I tend to move them AS SOON AS the seed has sprouted.

    1. Sorry meant to add a link:

  2. Great advice Bart, cant wait for the next installment.